Photo Dr.Saltiel outdoors

Seth Saltiel

Assistant Research Professor he/him/his


I studied physics and energy and resources as an undergraduate and geophysics as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, with a brief stop in-between working in geothermal energy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. After a year-long visit to the Geophysics Department of the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, I was a post-doctoral researcher in the Rock and Ice Mechanics Lab at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. I am now starting a position as research faculty in the Nevada Seismological Lab here at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2022.

Research interests

As an experimental geophysicist, my research interests focus on the frictional and seismic behavior of geologic interfaces under shear. These boundaries control dynamic earth processes of societal significance on many scales.

My work includes applications to:

  • Tectonic faults that control continental-scale deformation and earthquakes
  • Glacier beds that control the flow and mass balance of ice sheets and future sea-level change
  • Fractures that control permeability and induced seismicity in subsurface energy, water, and waste reservoirs
  • Landslide, rock slope, and avalanche failure surface that control landform evolution and local hazards.

My work informs our understanding of dynamic behavior and geophysical properties, as well as their dependence on evolving conditions. I carry out lab-scale measurements, both towards better constraining the physics underlying exciting new observations and improving constitutive relations for representing these processes in large-scale models. I'm also interested in bridging experimental developments into novel field techniques to shed light on the underlying mechanics of these key geologic problems. Improved connections between lab-scale insights and field observations, as well as across scientific disciplines, are vital for predicting and managing our interaction with important earth systems.

Courses taught

  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Engineering 1024: Strength and Properties of Materials (2018)
  • UC Berkeley, Earth and Planetary Science 50: The Planet Earth (2013)
  • UC Berkeley, Physics C10: Physics for Future Presidents (2012)


  • PhD Earth and Planetary Science, UC Berkeley, 2017
  • MSc Geophysics, UC Berkeley, 2013
  • BA Physics, Energy and Resources Minor, UC Berkeley, 2010

Selected publications

  • S. Saltiel, C. McCarthy, T.T. Creyts, H.M. Savage, (2021) Experimental evidence of velocity-weakening friction during ice slip over frozen till: implications for basal seismicity in fast moving, soft-bed glaciers and ice streams, Seismological Research Letters, Focus Section on Arctic and Antarctic Seismology, doi:10.1785/0220200480
  • S. Saltiel, T. Mittal, J. G. F. Crempien, J. Campos, (2020) ‘Bristle-state’ friction: Modeling slip initiation and transient frictional evolution from high-velocity earthquake rupture experiments, Frontiers in Earth Science, doi:10.3389/feart.2020.00373
  • S. Saltiel, B.P. Bonner, T. Mittal, B. Delbridge, J. Ajo-Franklin, (2017) Experimental evidence for dynamic friction on rock fractures from frequency-dependent nonlinear hysteresis and harmonic generation, Journal of Geophysical Research – Solid Earth, 122 (7), 4982-4999, dot: 10.1002/2017JB014219
  • S. Saltiel, B.P. Bonner, J. Ajo-Franklin, (2017) Strain-dependent partial slip on rock fractures under seismic-frequency torsion, Geophysical Research Letters, 44, dot: 10.1002/2017GL073108
  • S. Saltiel, P.A. Selvadurai, B.P. Bonner, S.D. Glaser, J. Ajo-Franklin, (2017) Experimental development of low-frequency shear modulus and attenuation measurements in mated rock fractures: shear mechanics due to asperity contact area changes with normal stress, GEOPHYSICS, 82, 2, 1-18, dot: 10.1190/GEO2016-0199.1

Find more of Dr.  Saltiel's research